The Association for Science Education

ASE Chair

Chair of the Association: Pete RobinsonPete Robinson Chair

In 2013/2014 Pete Robinson is Chair of the Association for Science Education. Pete tells us the lessons he has learned from his career as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, what he plans to do as Chair and what ASE's modus operandi "Excellence in Science Teaching and Learning" means to him.:

"I graduated from Durham in 1981 after a three-year chemistry degree and had decided that teaching was my chosen career. I wanted to combine my favourite pastimes of climbing and hill walking with a job and, with this in mind, I went to UCNW Bangor for a PGCE in science and outdoor education. The outdoor education took much more of my time and effort, but led to me supporting schools with adventure trips and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. One of my teaching practices was at Outward Bound, Ullswater, which was possibly one of the most memorable teaching experiences I have had. 

After Bangor, I taught in Hampshire and Berkshire for five years, collecting a further qualification in physics from the Open University (this is what happens when you land a Head of Physics job as a chemist…). I returned to the North in 1988, settling in the West Pennine Moors and teaching in a North Manchester suburb for fourteen years. In 2002, I became the Key Stage 3 Strategy science consultant for Bury Local Authority, with additional responsibility for assessment for learning and transition. I became a NAIGS Committee member in 2004 and then NAIGS Chair in 2010. Ironically, I believe that I became the first unemployed Chair of NAIGS, as I was made redundant at the end of 2010! 

Many countries around the world look to the UK upon which to model their science education and this serves to remind me of the superb curricula and pedagogies we have. The changes we currently face should not be allowed to diminish the quality of what we do in the classroom and I am proud that ASE stands for ‘excellence in science education’.

Since the start of 2011, I have been working as an independent teaching and learning consultant, enjoying work in a wide range of contexts and settings. I have worked in the Middle East and Kazakhstan, as well as school-based roles in the UK. It is most interesting to see that many countries around the world look to the UK upon which to model their science education and this serves to remind me of the superb curricula and pedagogies we have. The changes we currently face should not be allowed to diminish the quality of what we do in the classroom and I am proud that ASE stands for ‘excellence in science education’. 

As I start my year as Chair, ASE has completed its first fifty years. There have been many changes within the Association, and within education, during those years. The Association has always responded positively to such changes, to best support the membership and, as we move to the next phase, I see us continuing this evolutionary process. A clear sign of change is in the way that our committees now operate; virtual meetings are increasing in order to reduce the time commitment for committee members, as well as the additional costs of travel and accommodation. Most committees will continue to have face-to-face meetings at least once a year, as there are some agenda items that do not lend themselves to a virtual meeting. 

The new governance structure continues to evolve into one that is both streamlined and fit for purpose. My immediate predecessors, Lynne Horton and Liz Lawrence, have been instrumental in shaping the way that the Assembly works. In the last year, Assembly has been reviewing and updating ASE policy documents, reviewing web resources and responding to curriculum changes, along with planning to support the Association’s priorities during next year. Assembly will run more virtually next year, with subgroups making progress with individual priority items. Small virtual meetings of sub-group leaders will feed into individual sub-groups and support a more sustained development process. Council has been streamlining ASE’s operating procedures, dealing with financial matters, reviewing the business plan, website development and other strategic matters. Cross-fertilisation of ideas between Council and Assembly has worked well, facilitated by a small group of members who are common to both. 

In my year as Chair-Elect, I found out more about the work of other committees and groups, finding that each has a unique set of issues and challenges. By its very nature, ASE is the sum of many parts and is a much stronger body because of this. However, we must always remember that ASE represents all members and needs to support all issues faced by different committees. 

After the ASE Annual Conference 2013 in Reading, I visited the Scottish Conference in Crieff. It was a thoroughly enjoyable conference, covering such diverse topics as the geological history of Scotland and how to motorise a paper aircraft. Steuart Cuthbert’s whisky-tasting session was particularly well attended (and extremely well received) and gave everyone a valuable insight into Scottish heritage. I attended the Northern Ireland Conference at Queen’s University, Belfast in June and enjoyed sessions about independent learning and science fairs, coming away with many new ideas. The technicians’ conference in July was held in the National Science Learning Centre, York and gathered together many of our enthusiastic and innovative technician members. I am looking forward to attending other regional events and committee meetings over the next year. 

I am most grateful to the supportive and talented people with whom I have worked during my career. Without their time and support, I would not be in this privileged position. In return, I would like to use my time as Chair to support and encourage others as they strive for excellence in science education."

Pete Robinson is Chair of the Association 2013-2014.

Contact E-mail: media@ase.org.uk
Excerpt from EiS September 2013 pp 7